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Reasonable To Conclude Visa Knowingly Helped Monetize Child Porn, Says Judge In Pornhub Case

   DailyWire.com
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A federal judge ruled on Friday that it was reasonable to conclude that Visa knowingly ‘intended to help monetize child pornography’ on Pornhub and other sites operated by its parent company, MindGeek.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California wrote, “Visa knew that MindGeek’s websites were teeming with monetized child porn,” in the Fleites v. MindGeek lawsuit

“When MindGeek decides to monetize child porn, and Visa decides to continue to allow its payment network to be used for that goal despite knowledge of MindGeek’s monetization of child porn, it is entirely foreseeable that victims of child porn like plaintiff will suffer the harms that plaintiff alleges,” Carney wrote.

Plaintiff Serena Fleites filed the lawsuit last year, alleging MindGeek violated federal sex trafficking and child pornography laws. Such violations led credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard to suspend processing payments on Pornhub following a New York Times report revealing illegal content on its website.

Fleites alleges a former boyfriend pressured her into making a sexually explicit video and uploaded it to Pornhub without her knowledge or consent when she was 13 years old. The video garnered millions of views and spiraled the plaintiff’s life out of control.

“While MindGeek profited from the child porn featuring Plaintiff, Plaintiff was intermittently homeless or living in her car, addicted to heroin, depressed and suicidal, and without the support of her family,” the lawsuit reads.

Variety reports the plaintiff’s lead attorney, Michael Bowe, said, “the court’s holding that our detailed complaint adequately pleads Visa was engaged in a criminal conspiracy to monetize child porn means Visa and other credit card companies are finally going to face the civil and perhaps criminal consequences of … this unconscionable and illegal activity.”

Carney denied Visa’s motion to dismiss the claim that the company violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits false advertising and illegal business practices.

A Visa spokesperson told Variety the company “condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company.”

The spokesperson called the pre-trial ruling disappointing and said it mischaracterized Visa’s role, policies, and practices. 

“Visa will not tolerate the use of our network for illegal activity,” the spokesperson said. “We continue to believe that Visa is an improper defendant in this case.”

MindGeek also weighed in, issuing a statement that said the court has not ruled on the veracity of the allegations and is required to assume all of the plaintiff’s claims are true and accurate. 

“When the court can actually consider the facts, we are confident the plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed for lack of merit,” a spokesperson from MindGeek told Variety. “MindGeek has zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms, and has instituted the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history.”

Pornhub’s parent company also claims to have banned uploads from anyone who has not submitted government-issued identification that passes a third-party verification. 

The company said it eliminated the ability to download free content, integrated several leading technology platforms and content moderation tools, and instituted digital fingerprinting of all videos found to violate its rules against non-consensual content and child sexual abuse.

“Policies to help protect against removed videos being reposted, expanded our moderation workforce and processes, and partnered with dozens of non-profit organizations around the world,” MindGeek’s spokesperson said. “Any insinuation that MindGeek does not take the elimination of illegal material seriously is categorically false.”

The judge’s ruling comes a month after MindGeek denied allegations from a non-profit organization that more than half of its employees were likely laid off following the resignation of two of the company’s top executives on the same day.

Last month, MindGeek’s former chief executive officer, Feras Antoon, and ex-Chief Operating Officer David Tassillo resigned after more than a decade of running the adult website company, though both remain shareholders of the company.

However, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the non-profit that made the allegations, said in a statement Wednesday that the reported layoffs, which come from layoffstracker.com, “are more evidence that the infrastructure of the pornography industry is crumbling and that MindGeek needs to be investigated.”

“It is no coincidence that MindGeek’s two top executives have fled amid a growing number of lawsuits we and other law firms have filed on behalf of sex trafficking survivors whose abuse has been shown on Pornhub,” Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the center said. “And because of the intense outcry from survivors, advocates, corporations, and even from news outlets like the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the BBC that revealed Pornhub’s criminality.”

However, MindGeek told The Daily Wire such allegations are “categorically false.”

Still, Hawkins asserts Pornhub profited from mass distribution of filmed sexual crimes and non-consensually recorded and uploaded videos and called on the federal government to hold the website accountable for mass criminal exploitation.

During a virtual U.S. Congressional briefing in 2021, the non-profit presented evidence of the rampant criminality on Pornhub and included testimony from survivors.

Sexually abused children and trafficking victims have filed multiple class-action civil lawsuits against Pornhub in the United States and Canada.

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